Sam van Zweden




A poem

I wrote a poem today. It’s about the link between the things below. I hope to be able to point you to it some time soon.

Verity La Post

The lovely gentlemen at Verity La published a poem of mine today, called Sail. I wrote it quite some time ago, inspired by the deluge that took over Melbourne mid last Winter. Given that we’re getting to that time of year again, it’s fitting that it’s been published just now.

You should check it out, it looks lovely. They do such a great job, so thanks guys!

Overload: Telling It Like It Is

We have a small slam scene, and a young one, but last night it felt so strong.

Last night was the Tell It Like It Is slam at the Footscray Community Arts Centre. Crowd and performances aside, this is an amazing space. An ex-tannery on the industrial side of down, right by the river, there’s a vibe to it. I can say nothing more concrete and positive than that it’s aesthetically pleasing and has a good vibe, but who needs more than that?

Tell It Like It Is is a regular slam run by Luka Lesson and Alia Gabres, and these guys have teamed up with the Centre for Poetics and Justice, who have teamed up with Overload Poetry Festival to present last night’s pants-wettingly good show.

The evening began with local poets, with the usual suspects wow-ing. Luka performed a piece backed by Meena Shamaly, which talked about the strength of his roots leading him to write powerful words, as if it were an inevitability. Joel McKerrow told the stories of some of his students, talking about bullies who are only bullies because they don’t have pens. Mel Hughes gave us a moving and personal piece about her little boy – I applaud her bravery in sharing, but I also applaud her gift with words and her ability to perform.

The fuss about the evening though was the international guests. With such a small and young slam community, we’re incredibly lucky to have gotten these amazing performers to join us for Overload: Ken Arkind, Jive Poetic, and Shane Koyczan.

All three of these guys know how to do the personal and the political in perfect balance, and how to weight the serious and the humorous so an audience feels the light and dark from their insides.

Ken Arkind (self-proclaimed “sexiest garden gnome at the yard sale!”) bounced around, all beard and wonder. He performed the pieces I love him for – Maggie, and For Wes. Then he pulled out some I’d never seen or heard before (the video’s of Slam Nuba, he’s in there, and it’s as electric as it was last nigth), and now I love him even more. This man is small, but he’s explosive.

Jive Poetic knows how politics are done – without sentiment, without black and white. He also knows how the laughs are done, and I don’t think I’ve laughed as much at a slam as I did while Jive Poetic performed. Something about the way he performs is personable, and as Luka said, he connects with his crowd, whether that’s three people or a stadium full.

A note on last night’s numbers: at a rough guess, this place sat about 150 people. By the end of the first round, the seats were all full, plus beanbags had been pulled out for people to sit down in front, and extra chairs around the side of the stage. And many were faces I’ve never seen before – this is exciting. A small slam scene means the same faces all the time, and crowds rarely getting very big. This crowd was the biggest I’ve ever seen at a slam, and all were engaged and excited to be there.

Shane Koyczan finished the night up and mannnnn….everything I expected and more. Like Ken Arkind, he did some pieces I knew and loved, and others I’d never heard. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he read a newer piece about the death of his best friend. Shane’s performance style is really understated, but sure and strong. He’s quite static, and the power is all in his voice. And such a voice.

Shane is performing again tonight at the closing night event for Overload, alongside Sean M Whelan, Eleanor Jackson, Emilie Zoey Baker and other Melbourne Awesome. Discounted tickets are available now, so you have no excuse not to be there.

Centre for Poetics and Justice are also doing an up-close-and-personal panel event with Ken Arkind, Jive Poetic and Shane Koyczan on Monday night. There’s only 40 seats for this thing, and it’s a “secret” event – sign up to the CPJ mailing list, and Joel will send you out the details, but not the full details until Monday. Go! Now! You don’t want to miss this.

Overload Call-Out for Volunteers

It’s almost that time again – only a few weeks until the 10th Overload Poetry Festival starts.

They’re looking for volunteers for front of house –  this is a great way to meet some really lovely people and make some poetry scene connections. And you get to see a bunch of really great gigs for free. GO!

It’s a Process

The word “process” implies some sort of replicable ritual, something which can be followed to the end to get results. The sad truth, alas, is that usually it doesn’t all go down in the right order, it’s usually heavily punctuated with coffee, washing, or walks to the library, and it often lacks really satisfying results. Creating a ritual around my writing is important, but perhaps the most helpful part of that ritual is when it doesn’t go to plan.

While walking through the cemetery early this week, I discovered the Springthorpe Memorial. It really moved me, but I had no idea how I could use that. I came home and executed some boring pages about nothing much.

Next evening, I was playing with the magnetic poetry-makers on my fridge and came up with the following, which I somehow feel was inspired by the character of Sonmi-451 in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The poem read:
“How the monkey did wander
but sad.”

I wrote that down, because it made me sad.

The next morning I started working on a poem about the Springthorpe Memorial, using the idea of sad wandering, and talking about the fierce angels which guard the doctor’s “O Sweetheart Mine”. I’ve been researching all the sculptors who created the many statues around Melbourne, and I have no idea where that’s going to go but it seems useful.

And that’s the trajectory of just one piece. Just one piece which is still unfinished, so the “process” which guides me to the end of it may take a bunch of twists and turns along the way. The point is that I planned time to write about the Springthorpe Memorial, and it was balls. This doesn’t mean that I think getting up and making myself write is balls – far from, I find it very important. But in this case, the unplanned stuff was my way in – it was helpful.

Overload Call-Out

The Overload Poetry Festival was one of my favourite things about last year; I had an absolute blast blogging for them. Sure, it’s not on again until September yet, but the back-end stuff has started happening already – they have issued a call-out for submissions, and first announcements of performers and events for the 2011 festival should happen around June. This year being the 10th year of the festival, it’s all set to be one big party.

A media release from the festival is below. Don’t discount this festival as “too hard” or “unachievable” – last year I had two pieces of micro poetry accepted and broadcast at the ticker text at Fed Square. The people who perform are those who are more than happy to rub shoulders and get sloshed with you afterwards – you could be one of those people! Melbourne’s poetry scene is super-accepting, uber-friendly, and incredibly feel-good. If you’ve got an idea – PITCH! Go forth and verse, yo.

Be sure to check out their website for details about the festival.

Overload 2011 – Calling for Submissions!

The Melbourne Overload Poetry Festival is the biggest grass roots poetry and spoken word festival in Australia. We are an inclusive and diverse festival that strives to showcase all forms of poetry, on or off the page. Overload has a reputation for pairing the experimental with the traditional, presenting them in an equal light in an accessible way.

From 10 to 19 September, the festival celebrates its 10th anniversary. We have come from being a small collective of regular, mainly pub poetry readings to a 10 day festival with a national and international presence.

In 2011 we want to celebrate this evolution with your help. We are calling for expressions of interest from poets in Melbourne and elsewhere in Australia who have ideas for events, a publication or CD they’d like to launch, or would simply like to read their work at Overload.

Go to, download and fill out the submission form and return it to Overload before 13 May 2011. Provide as much information as possible: examples of your work, a bio, a thorough description of the event you’re planning, what kind of resources you have or need (publicity, venue, fees, etc), and if you’re coming from outside Melbourne, which dates you’re available.

Send us your proposals via email to, or by post to Overload Poetry Inc, 176 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000. Attach as much support material as you can. If sending via post and you’d like us to return any samples of your work, please provide a SSAE.

Interstate and international poets please note: Overload is unable to offer any financial support for travel or accommodation. However, we will try and make the trip worth your while by offering two gigs at the festival.

176 Lt Londsale St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9094 7835

Willy Lit Fest spot

The Willy Lit Fest is holding a People’s Choice poetry and prose reading night. The poetry section is hosted by Michael Reynolds, the man behind Passionate Tongues.

I managed to get a spot there reading my poem Transit. I’ll be reading at 7.25pm. Tickets are available on the website, and like everything else at this festival it’s CHEAAAPPP!

Also reading at the People’s Choice (in the prose section) is Megan from Lit Life. It’ll be a who’s-who of books and writing blogs. Come down and scream yourself silly for us!

Love Yourself Today

You should love yourself today.

I’ve been having a slow, tired, quiet, slightly sick day, and I’m about to cap it all off with work.

I just found this Randall Stephens poem which calmed me a little.

I hope it calms you too. Happy Monday.

Red Lobster Appearance

I’ve just discovered that the final Spinning Room episodes of Red Lobster aired a few weeks ago, and episode 230, with me in it, is up online!

Isn’t it amazing how many faults you can see in your own performances when you watch them back? Even so, this did go down well and it was an amazing night.

My performance is just past the 5 minute mark, but do watch the whole thing – so many great poets!

The rest of the final Spinning Room episodes are up too.

Episode 229 features Amy Bodossian performing one of my favourites of hers, again with a bunch of great people on the open mic, a few familiar names like that man who appears regularly on this blog, Benjamin Solah.

Now, a very important note: You’re nothing until you’ve witnessed Santo Cazzati at full speed. He is most of episode 228. If you don’t watch any of the other episodes in this post, watch Santo. He’s a revelation.

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